Monday, July 27, 2009

Great article: Keeping Spikes in Media Interest Up

The nature of media relations is - like it or not - touch and go. When you're up, you're up. When you're down, you're down and when a story has gone through the news cycle, the let down afterwards can be disappointing. The tendency is to look for ways to keep a story going so an association or NPO can keep their cause "top of mind". This is no small feat but the internet age makes this more possible. In my search to come across some great examples of how this can be done on Kivi's NonProfit Communications Blog with a recent article "The First 100 Hours - Turning Media Spikes into Fundraising Leads".

Some of the more salient points of the article involve the following excellent pieces of advice:

  • Amplification of traffic via blogs, Twitter and online PR. Online coverage leads to more traffic to your site than more traditional PR. The best way to amplify traffic is develop one or two clear calls to action and ask bloggers, tweeters, etc. to repeat them.

  • Capture and divert Google searchers via customized search ads related to the media activity. For 100 hours (give or take) search activity will surge on a wide range of plain English variations of “your media topic here.” While organic search may get visitors to one page or another on your site, the only way to get searchers directly to the landing page is via paid search ads. Maximize those Google grants - or if you don’t have one - consider an expenditure and track your return. In most cases we’re talking hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.

  • Launch concomitant online paid media. In an ideal world, the report release would be accompanied by a flight of online ads. As with search, one could expect click- through rates to be much higher in the 100-hour media coverage window.

  • Devote significant home page real estate to diverting traffic to a landing page related to the issue in the media spotlight. For 100 hours, the top home page priority should be getting traffic to the conversion landing page.

  • Develop a landing page that makes a very brief yet compelling case for signing on — by offering a free benefit or calling them to action. The quality of the landing page will be the single largest determinant in converting media coverage into traffic into names on the email list.

I think this is excellent advice. What are your thoughts?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Leveraging Social Media? What are all these internet forums and are they really applicable to associations?

Interestingly, it is the internet’s depth and vastness that mystifies many association executives. Sadly, I hear many associations express veiled excuses for not involving social media in their outreach efforts. Commonly thought of as the domain of Gen-Yers, and twenty-somethings, social media and internet viral marketing offer practical and sensible applications for all audiences. Social media strategy depends from case to case and will require an investment of time. Used correctly, social media can:

• Build networks and community, connect and mobilize members on the key issues confronting your association
• Build a donor base and gather emails
• Tell your story –Put a face and a personality to your organization
• Share information and resources quickly
• Promote brand and cause

If carried out correctly, viral web marketing techniques can be very effective in boosting your member list and getting your organization’s name and message out. Many non-profits are using “Tell a friend” buttons or links on their websites and email newsletters. Whether used for connecting or recruiting members and donors, and developing advocacy can take different channels through the various goals sought.

Recruiting members and soliciting donations:
The very essence of making online “friends” and developing a base of followers through social media extends this ability far beyond the reach of the amount of people or prospects you could physically reach in one day. With one of my charitable clients, the Success Factory, we have just begun an online campaign through Facebook to raise money and build word-of-mouth awareness for its employment training programs. Using the “Causes” application, Facebook is allowing board members and staff of this brand new organization in one full sweep to: 1.) Demonstrate the mission of the Success Factory, 2.) Engage other Facebook members to recruit their friends as supporters of the cause, and 4.) Allow a forum of communication for Success Factory supporters, thereby spawning the creation of new innovative ideas.

Facilitating communication between association staff, members, supporters and the board
The concept of sharing ongoing association business with the entire world on Facebook is less than appealing. To answer this situation, there are social media options such as Ning.com and Google Friend Connect that can create either a separate network for an association or integrate social networking elements right within an association’s website. The Canadian Table Soccer Association is one association that has effectively utilized Ning (http://tablesoccerca.ning.com) as an opportunity for members to connect, share ideas, and announce events.

Within an association website, there are means a communications team can take to ensure that it remains current and relevant for members. Using Google Friend Connect, a free set of customizable tools offered by Google, associations can embed html code within their website that easily invites friends from social networks and contact lists to visit and join your site.

If associations are not blogging, they need to begin. Integrating a blog into your web presence provides regular information for members and board to follow. For those associations less inclined towards a full blog, Twitter comes to the rescue offering a micro-blog option. Creating an account is free and each blog entry is limited to 140 characters. As a result, your association’s ability to be found in search engines is increased.

Building recognition with the Media and Influential Bloggers

The internet is crawling with bloggers on issues as vast as the internet itself. Social media also changes the presence of how non-profits present information to journalists. With the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), I have been working their media relations and internet teams to promote collaboration between these two fields. Journalists will also be kept up to date with every story development of via an RSS subscribe option. Even the delivery of traditional press releases changes with social media. Instead of the typical boiler plate press release, a photo was embedded along with clickable links over to the organization’s website. To best ensure the internet is leveraged as a communications vehicle, make sure the message you devise is clear, well presented, and easy-to-follow. This includes replying to personal messages and posting constant updates. Online profiles can be time-consuming, but their targeted visibility is unparalleled.
Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Strategic Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy for non-profits and associations.

Tips for government grant success - part #2

In May, I wrote a submission to Charity Village's Village Vibes newsletter on some of the basics that associations and charities should concern themselves with when considering an application for a government grant in support of their programs. Since then, I have been approached by various non-profit board members of differing organizations looking for advice. In the hunt for offering valuable counsel, I thought it worthwhile to elaborate and in some instances, come back to some of my original points.

Some of the most basic principles of general grant seeking and grant writing tips apply for government grants, as long as the previous rules and tips are acknowledged and followed. The more general but also crucial tips to successful grant seeking and writing are below:

  • Seek out programs that are as closely tied to your program’s cause or initiative. The more focused and specific your program to their grant guidelines, the more apt the funder will be to award your nonprofit the grant. You will discover this through your research of potential programs and grants.

  • Pay special attention to amounts, deadlines, restrictions, locations, etc. Missing one small detail could easily cost you a grant.

  • Make sure to spend plenty of time on the grant. Most grants seem simple enough, but the funders do not want a hastily completed grant proposal, and yes, they can always tell.

  • If you do not have the time to spend on delivering a well-written grant, hire a professional grant writer whose specialty is drafting and submitting winning grants. This could take a lot of work and worry off a busy nonprofit’s shoulders, and could be well worth the investment. Grant writers have often worked in with an organization that offers grants, giving them the benefit knowing what is generally expected.
  • Make sure to apply knowing that the funds will not be awarded retroactively, and the application process can take anywhere from a couple months to a year. Plan accordingly.

  • Make sure to include all attachment documents that the guidelines ask for. Typical ancillary documents include: federal nonprofit proof, fiscal year budget, and other sources of grant/fundraising income.
  • Know that most government grant sources will ask specifically for follow-up proof on how their money is being spent and what the positive outcome has been. Be prepared with ways in which to measure the success of the program, and talk about it in the grant.

  • Lastly, know that all grants-especially government grants-are very very competitive, and that you may not win every grant for which you apply. Applying for grants is a learning process. You will win some and you will lose some, and learn what works and what does not in delivering a successfully awarded grant.

  • Grant application is a lengthy and delicate process, but necessary for the sustenance of non-profits. These tips and the aid of a non-profit professional will ensure that your organization is prepared for any proposal.
    Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. If you have questions on how Bill C-4 impacts on your organization, please contact him. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca/Action_Strategies/Newsletter.html